Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Craft from a not-to-crafty person

Ah, the holidays are here!  
Tis the week before Thanksgiving (oh it is just days away!)
and I look at my dining table wondering what to do.....

What to do?

So, okay, I am doing a bit of copying....

Visiting my dear friend Kathy who had a lovely
try of candles, many candles,
all different heights.
Some of those nifty faux candles with a vanilla scent
that you just use a remote to turn on!  (Costco)
Then the candles that have faux birch wood wrapped on the 
outside.  Leaves scattered amongst them on,
leaves scattered on her large coffee table as though a
wisp of wind laid them there....
Needless to say Kathy seems to decorate in the way
that feels warm, natural, and speaks of home....where
you want to sit and sip a cup of tea or better yet
a lovely glass of wine.  (hint, hint, Kathy)
I had candle envy.  Can you have candle envy?  

Oh back to the dining table. 

I had a mission yesterday.  I was thinking,  surely I can find 
some of the faux birch bark candles. 
Then I thought of how to use the candles.
 I should have remembered while I was walking the aisles of
Cost Plus.   I thought of a tray which I did not have the size I wanted.
I thought of a mirror laid on the table...reflection and light!
I found the candles at Cost Plus!  Yippeee!  Bought four.  
(the employees need to know their merchandise as they didn't
think they had them. They thought they were only online.   I found them
after searching aisle by aisle.)

On to the craft store.  Once again I am distracted.
Too many women, too many carts.
I bought sheet moss, bright green, fresh moss.
I bought Lichen that is black on one side
soft cream on the other side, curly, crisp as
though peeled from a oak tree.
Distraction over the faux trees and what I
could do with them for Christmas......

Home. Thinking.

I look up and realize I have so many baskets of every type.  
In the garage way of high I spy a long, low basket.
This basket was so dirty. 
I thought of wiping it down but it was a mess
and would take too long to clean.
I  hosed it down at full force and set it tilted over the heat vent.
Dry in no time!


I have plenty of my own candles I can add.

I have a wide enough table but I still need room for my place mats and glassware....
The basket will give me the length I need for a table set for nine.

I could look for some acorns....but went out and cut some
branches off the Maple tree for now.  
Christmas ideas are brewing in my head.

Seriously...thank you Kathy for the idea....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Horse Tails - End


     Rodger found the flag holsters for our saddles as well as the flags.  Up until then we had practiced just with the horses, to keep the same pace and uniformity.  We had that down and we were feeling quite good about ourselves.  The vests and horse pads were almost ready and with horse show season as well as Fair time coming up we were getting excited about being able to do the Color Guard for the beginning of those events.  Note:  that we never thought we wouldn't get to do this.  

     Spring in Antioch is quite windy and this day was no exception.  Becky wasn't able to work with us this day on her horse Whisky so David's sister was going to substitute for fun with us.  There were a few other kids on horses in the arena along with us,  just having a good time riding.  Rodger had already placed the holster on our saddles where it would hang down from the saddle horn by the right side of the saddle next to your leg.  David was on his horse walking around with the flag waving in the wind.  His horse didn't seem to mind.  Of course he noted that you don't want the flag flapping in your face.  He was laughing and excited about the whole deal carry the flag.  This will take a bit of learning on our part holding the flag with one hand and reins in the other, that when standing in place it would be a good to hold the flag against the pole with your right hand.   

     My Duke and I are all ready to give it a try.  Duke is the kind of horse you call "bomb proof".   He doesn't get nervous or do stupid things like some spirited horses can do.  I can walk behind and under him with never a worry of getting kicked.  He just isn't that kind of horse.  He is the perfect kid horse.    In my mind he is the best horse in the whole world whom I love with all my heart.  


     Tragedy comes to each of us and we are never aware or prepared for it's arrival.  A day will begin just as any other day.  You rise, eat breakfast, dress and do whatever your day will be.  And that was how my day was until it ended in that one moment of disbelief. 

     I can hear Rodger talking to me about holding the flag.  I am standing next to Duke not up on him.  I have split reins and one is up around his neck and the other is down.  What I don't remember is why I was not on him when we put the flag in the holster.  Why did we do it this way?  Rodger had suggested I walk Duke and he would hold the flag for Duke to get use to before I was on him.  What I remember is the flag flapping with Rodger holding the pole straight up and I was next to him.  We had started walking,  then with out any warning Duke took off running, the reins jerked from my hands.  Just like that.  I can hear myself yelling to him "Whoa, whoa!".  Yelling is name "Duke!"  I was running after him wanting him to stop.   That horse of mine was running with the flag still in the holster dragging next to him.  He was running in fear and I was as afraid as he was.  

     Then Duke did the next thing he had never done.  He tried to jump the arena fence.  The tall arena fence that was sturdy and strong.  The height of which to climb you go up four rails till you reach the top.  My eyes saw him try to clear it but Duke was not a jumper, he wasn't a big horse and he had that flag dragging in the dirt.  I can see him in my mind making the jump.  Though he made it over my thoughts next were, will he stop running?  Will he keep running and why won't the flag pole drop?

     I ran to the arena gate and swung it open.  Dub and Ilene's barn is right there near the gate with the one lane drive that leads around the fairgrounds.   There was Duke,  stopped and I was so overcome by this crazy thing he had done that I ran to him as he stood there and it was then I noticed his trembling.  I noticed his hind leg that he would not bear weight on.  I saw the blood running down that leg he held up, cocked on the tip of his hoof.   I ran to him my arms flung round his neck the tears flowing.  I never saw Dub come to me and was looking Duke over.  I never heard a sound but my own cry and the burning tears blinding my eyes.  

    Dub. Dear, sweet man,  Dub.  He gets his truck and hooks the horse trailer up.  He unsaddles Duke and gets a halter on him.  He somehow gets me to let go of my horse and load him in the trailer.  Ilene was next to me, arms around my shoulders letting me weep and cry.   I remember Dub telling us that he would go to Davis to the Veterinary School.  I am reassured as I have heard they are the best for taking care of horses.  I watched that trailer take my horse for as long as I could.

     My mom came to pick me up, at sometime Ilene must have called her.   She drives me to the doctor's office that she works at and gets me in a room.  I don't think my mom knew what to do for me.  This was not a situation she was prepared for to see her daughter so upset and unconsolable.    The Doctor came in and it was discussed that she could leave early.  We went home and I buried myself in my bed.  Alone as the day became night, crying, just crying.  At some time the door opened in the dark,  letting a shaft of light in.  My mom came to my bed to tell me that Dub had called.   It was not good.  Duke had shattered his hind leg in the jump and there was nothing that could be done.  My Duke was gone.  My dearest friend in this awful life of mine was gone.   I know my mom must have touched me or stroked my back but she was gone before I felt the relief that I longed for.  The darkness and at last sleep came upon me.

     It was weeks before I would go back to the barn and see my friends.  See Duke's empty stall, his saddle and bridle, halter and all the memories flashing in my head day after day.  I kept the shirt I wore that day with the blood on it, his blood.  I hid it, I didn't want to have it washed clean, I wanted to have something that was of him with me.

     Everyone was kind and caring.  Telling me all the right things to say to someone who has lost their horse.  I sat with Ilene in the office for awhile till I felt I needed to leave.  Dub was not there, he was truck driving cross country for the week.  I was never told I needed to remove my tack.  Everything was the same there in the barn.  It was only Duke gone and my insides twisted and torn.

     The Color Guard group went on.  A young girl named Ann on her pretty Appaloosa took my place.   She was a sweet girl who had been quite upset over the accident.  I have a snapshot in my head of the four of them all dressed in our uniforms, the horses with the fancy saddle pads, fluttering silver and black as they walked.  They looked good.  I never see myself in that picture.  It was over and it was the end.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some words said....speak volumns

     Some words can make you stop, pause, and feel good all over.  Back in 1996 my youngest daughter M. was in the school's Speech Contest and made into the finals.  As proud as I was for her making it to that point that paled in comparison to what she spoke of.

     The topic was "My Favorite American" and the person she spoke of was her Grandma Betty.  Her words tell it all.  These were her dear memories, and observations, without a bit of prompting or help from the rest of us.  It is of how much she loves her Grandma and about how loving to her Grandchildren this Grandma is.  Fifteen years later, seeing this once again,  it doesn't surprise me to hear what she said because M. has a deep love for her family.  Her speaking of how much Grandma means to her is as natural as can be.  Because when you really care about someone you share it.  This woman is my mother-by-marriage and truly there is no kinder, or more dear a lady, than this woman who I have been privileged to have in my life since age 16. 

So here is a love fest to see.  I have been archiving home movies and I am up to 1996.  A few video glitches but it was the 1990's before our digital cameras!


Life brought back as though it was just yesterday......and Grandma....hugs and kisses to you!

Megan's Speech Contest  1996 from Ellen F. on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Horse Tails - March winds.....brew sorrow

     While Rodger was out searching for fabric for our Color Guard vests and the horses pads, then having his friend sew them, he also was finding the holsters for the flags to sit in for our saddles.  He was our leader every step of the way with the planning details.  In the meantime we would practice in the arena working on riding our horses close together as well as in unity.  David and I rode on the outside flanking David and Becky.  We practiced doing turns as well as riding our horses at a trot or a canter in case we were riding in an arena carrying the flags in addition to in parades.  We thought maybe we could ride as a group when the Contra Costa Fair came in July.  

     We had had a wet winter that year making the arena a mud hole a lot of the time.  Our horses were frisky from being cooped up and not ridden too much.  Still, whenever it seemed dry enough Rodger would have us practice.  Most of the time it was David, Rodger and myself as Becky had odd hours of being a nurse at the hospital.  

     March came rolling in which meant my birthday.  My parents thinking that my year in Antioch had been so hard on me thought to give me a surprise 15th party.  What a horror for me when I walked into our house to find my school friends and my barn friends together saying "Surprise!".  Two groups who had never met and couldn't have been more of a contrast from each other.  I obviously felt uncomfortable just having my parents having anything to do with a party for me.  I liked my friends, all of them, but they had nothing in common except for me.  I could hardly wait for the evening to be over.

      My next big shock was that my parents decided to divorce.  It didn't really bother me as B. wasn't my real father and I didn't have that close a bond with him.  Maybe it was the fact that I had heard them trying to get along but not doing so well, or maybe it was that I didn't care.  I think I was selfish at 15 and could only see what I wanted.   My mom, grandmother and myself would be moving into an apartment and B. to his own as well.  My grandmother was still in Tennessee and would find upon her return a new residence we would be at.  

      Not long after B. moved out, he took me out to dinner.  He was very nice to me, as he always was, but point blanked asked me if I wanted to live with him instead of my mom.  I was floored.  He brought up how my mom and I didn't get along and that it wouldn't get any easier with him gone.  Not that he had ever intervened in any of our arguments.  I firmly told him no.  I let him know that while we fought she was my mom and I had no intention of abandoning her.  Inside I thought that really it was my Nan that I couldn't abandon.  I had missed her so much while she had been away.  I never saw B. again or heard from him.  In my adult years I came to find out that he had had an affair that started in Salinas and continued when we moved to Antioch.  The woman was a friend of the family from way back when we lived in Atwater.  It was insulting that he moved us from all our friends just so he could be closer to that woman.   

     I came home from school one afternoon to find our two poodles, Pepe and Charlie gone.  When my mom came home from work that evening I asked her where they were.  She very matter of fact said they had been ill for quite some time and they were put to sleep as they were not getting better.  I was beside myself.  I loved those dogs!   I knew they both had been on special dog food but I could see nothing wrong with either of them whatsoever.   They weren't old dogs either though they were near 9 nears of age.  My never getting to give them one more hug, more more playtime, one more brushing, one more more hugs for those little guys.  What I think happened, thinking through an adult mind now,  was that where we would be moving they would not take pets.   My mom had to think about where we would live and the dogs were not high on the priority for survival.  Why we couldn't have found them a new home I will never no.  The discussion and sorrow were not coming from my mom and I was at a loss for why my world continued to be turned upside down.  My room became the only place I wanted to be.  I look back and realize that these had to be very dark days for her as well.  

     In the meantime at the barn, Dub and somehow talked my mom into getting me a new saddle.  I had outgrown my first saddle and we traded that one for a lovely tooled one that fit perfectly for my young adult body.  I looked at all the areas of the saddle that someday I could add silver concho's to like the girls with their fancy show saddles.  The only bright spot in the month of March, not that getting a new saddle dealt with my heartache.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Horse Tails - Rodger and David

     What were my parents thinking when they moved us to Antioch?  Because in my 14 year old mind I felt like they cared nothing for my feelings let alone my opinion.  I was mad as hell and sulked like crazy.  Not only that but I didn't have my horse for two months after we moved.  There I was in that good awful town with no friends and no horse living in an ugly track home development.

     When the time came for my horse Duke to come I was obsessed with being able to go ride.  The new barn where he would be was at the fairgrounds in town and my mom would allow me to go be there much more than when we lived in Salinas.  Heaven,  I could brush, ride, and just hang out with horse people.  Dub and Ilene who managed the barn, were the best of people  and made me feel like I mattered but did not  try to parent me.  I may not have had a purebred horse but they dolled Duke up in ways I had never done.  I would come out to the barn and Dub would have his fetlocks all shaved and trimmed,  his hooves shined up glossy, his bridle path clipped and all his whiskers shaved.  Duke had never had this kind of fancy grooming.  I didn't own clippers just a pair of scissors I found at home and took.  I didn't own the horse products to shine a horses coat up with and what was in the tack room I was allowed to use.  Dub would bathe my horse and showed me how to as well.  He had an extra horse blanket for in the winter that he even put on my horse to keep his coat from getting long and furry.   I became a better horse person listening and learning from that man.

     As much as I hated Antioch I met some interesting people that year.  The fairgrounds were filled with horses all year round along with quite a community of families with kids hanging around having a great time.  Our barn was separate and private with full care versus the fair stalls where you had to clean and feed yourself.  My parents oddly enough bellied up to paying more for this barn which impressed me.  Honestly I think they were worried about having to aquire hay and get the stall clean which would mean going there twice a day.  That wouldn't have been a chore they would want to do even if it would be me doing it.  But it would require them to drive me there and that wasn't going to work with their plans.

     Two of the friends I made were Rodger and David. They use to hang around on weekends talking to Dub as Rodger owned a big white Tennessee Walker which is the breed Dub owned.  Oh that horse was beautiful with his long flowing mane and tail.  My Duke looked like a midget next to him.  Rodger was lean and slight of stature, with a hairstyle that reminded me of Elvis Presley, black and greased back with long sideburns.  He smoked like a chimney but then it seemed all the horse people smoked.  David was a dirty blonde with lambchop sideburns that were a darker shade than his hair, trimmed short.  He had a way about him that I just couldn't figure out.  He had a half quarter horse that he rode  and kept in the fairground stalls along with his siblings.  Both these men were in their late 20's and were roommates.  They met each other at work being an ambulance driver (think of the vehicle that was in Ghostbusters).  David was always with Rodger,  they were quite a couple at the fairgrounds.   This was before I knew what gay was.  I had never been around any that I knew about but these two while not openly affectionate were clearly an item.  David was the feminine one, from the way he held and smoked his cigarettes, to the way he sashayed when he walked.  He also had this high toned way of laughing and, dare I say, giggled.  I never heard a guy giggle!  Rodger  was a bit more manly with his deeper way of talking and walking.  Noted by me as well was that they liked to wear their pants tucked into their cowboy boots which I just had never seen done except by little kids.

     I knew that David was estranged from his father who had kicked him out years before.  I can only guess it was his choice of relationship that caused an issue back in the 70's let alone in this hick town of Antioch.  He seemed to only be around his sisters when he was at the barn.  Rodger was his family.  With their shooting the breeze horse talk at the barn, smoking one cigarette after the other, it wasn't long before I was doing it too.  Of course I had already been smoking for over a year but not openly with adults.  I would bum them off the guys who liked the brand Kool.   I who had only done Marlboro brand before enjoyed that menthol flavor.  Sometimes Becky, who was in her 30's and owned a sorrel colored quarter horse with a flaxen mane and tail would be with us.  She had the longest false eyelashes I ever saw.  It never mattered to them that I was only 14.  

     They all took me in as an equal age to them.  When Grand Nationals came to the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the four of us went.  We talked about forming a Color Guard Group together.  Rodger had great ideas for what we would wear and what kind of flashy saddle pads for the horses to wear.  Silver and black would be our colors, with the silver being extra bright and sparkly.  He had found someone who would sew all our vests with silver fringe, and the pads for the horses that would hang down long under our saddles with extra sparkle and fringe.  We would have black boots, black cowboy hats with a silver trim to top it all off.  We were inspired upon seeing the color guard at the Grand Nationals.  Parade riding was nothing new to Duke and I as I had ridden several times in the horse parades during the Salinas Rodeo.   

      For all the flak David and Rodger took by others, which as time went on I heard some nasty comments made at the fairgrounds about them, they were the nicest people to be around.  My parents never were interested in what I did at the fairgrounds nor ever asked.  When the color guard idea came up that was fine with them.  I didn't realize my parents were having their own issues between them.  I heard them arguing more in their bedroom and my Nan had gone to visit her sister in Tennessee so it was just us three.  I stayed in my bedroom as much as I could except for meals.  I still was mad with them for taking me from Salinas where I was happy and had a lot of friends.  Here I only had the barn friends.  An oddball group of misfits we were. 

     One of the silliest times we had together was David driving his Volkswagon bus out to the field adjacent to the fairgrounds that had been cut but not baled yet, taking armfuls and filling that bus up.   His bus had a skylight that we opened and once we couldn't stuff anymore in from the side we passed it up to whoever was on top to throw down the skylight.  We were all laughing, covered with oat hay in our clothes and hair.  We drove that bus around in circles till we figured we better get out of there before we got in trouble.  You would have thought they were teenagers like me.  Our horses loved that fresh cut hay as a treat as Dub and Ilene fed pellets because of storage issues.  David filled his extra stall that he stored tack and feed in with the rest.  I think I had the tips of the oats stuck in my socks, shirt and pants for quite sometime as they seem to be impossible to fully extract.  


Friday, November 5, 2010

The piano

     When I was a little girl there were times when I walked inside the house after coming home from school or playing outside and I would hear the piano being played.  I could hear my Nan singing along to her simple chords of "Jesus Loves Me" while she sat at the piano in our living room.

"Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes Jesus loves me, 
The  Bible tells me so."

    I would come stand next to her and I think she was a bit embarrassed to be found singing.  Sometimes I would sit next to her but she usually didn't stay playing once she had an audience observing her.  She would stop and ask me about what I was doing.

     Her book of church songs would be open on the piano stand.   I would sing along with her if it was one I knew from Sunday school.  Jesus Loves Me being the one I remembered singing along to.

"Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong."

    Most of the time I just listened to her softly sing her hymns.  She never preformed for us that I recall.  It seemed to be her time privately when we weren't at home that she would sit on the bench enjoying herself.   All her songs seemed to have been hymns which thinking about it now, I wonder why she didn't come to church with us.  I think she must of come every once in awhile for Easter or Christmas but otherwise she stayed home.  Maybe her piano time was her church time.  

    That piano now sits in my brother's home in his living room.  I should ask if in the piano bench are any of Nan's piano hymn books.  My mom kindly shipped it out to him many years ago when she decided a stand up piano wasn't the right look for her grand home.  She needed a shiny black baby grand even though she did not play herself.  It sits there like a fine piece of furniture dusted and well taken care of to the eye.  I doubt that it has been tuned in ages sadly as it deserves to be due to it's expense.  Occasionally one of my daughters has played on it while we visited but otherwise it sits lonely with it's white ivory keys shut tight beneath the black lid.

    The piano my Nan played had a life.  My brother took lessons and I tried to take lessons but gave up.  Sometimes I would  use some of the books my brother had or just plucked out some notes, but most of the time I played the tune "Chopsticks" along with "Heart and Soul"  with my girlfriends.   My brother's oldest son took lessons and played away on it beautifully.  It was used and isn't that what a piano should have happen?  To be played?

     In my home, we were given an old depression era baby grand by dear A. and C. before they moved to Seattle.  It's finish is worn and crackled, faded out of the black coat it had to a fine brown shade in the sunlight.  That piano has had much life in our house.  Our daughters loved banging on the keys to made up songs and then when two took lessons such lovely music came from it.  How much we enjoyed having a 'concert' given to us.  I loved to open the lid, prop it up, and have the sound come out so rich and loud when it was being played!   It needs restoration work but I cherish it because it was given to us just the way it is.  My oldest daughter sat at this piano with A. when just a little one, smiling with joy at the sound it made.  In fact A. is whom that piano is for me.  She may not live near me but the piano is a vivid memory of our times together at her home long ago.   

 1991 Erin on the piano from Ellen F. on Vimeo.

     At my parent's second home near us, they bought a player piano.  What a lot of fun that piano was!  It had all types of music scrolls that ranged from Christmas music, to old time music, to classical pieces.  I loved watching the music scroll down on songs we could sing along to as the words were right there easy to see.  Yet the best part was watching the keys play without a hand on them.  I think it felt like a ghost playing.  I don't know why my parents gave that piano away to some friends of theirs.  It sits in their family room at their vacation home in the mountains.  At least this family loves pianos and the husband plays splendidly.  In fact they have a grand piano there dominating the living room of that home  with special humidifiers to protect them from the dryness of the mountain air.  Sometimes  I want to ask them if they ever don't want it to please let me know.  I would find a place for that piano in our home just to have those good memories of singing around it as it played.  I would love to put one of the many scrolls in and listen to it. 

     A piano with a story, a song, fingers playing effortlessly, fingers, struggling to grasp the sharps and flats of a song.  Pedals for depth in a song, or the pedals hard to reach with young legs or not used at all.  I loved to push the pedal that sustained the notes.  The song "The Chimes" being a favorite song of mine to play just for that purpose, making me feel like I was in church with the echo of the lofty ceilings and high walls around me.  


The Piano from Ellen F. on Vimeo.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Defining A Movement

This was posted on my facebook home page and it spoke to me of the mothering of my children.  I love the quiver in the voice of the woman speaking in this because that is how I would be.  Trying hard to say from the heart the love I feel overflowing towards my children.  This has given me a bit of inspiration as well....


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